Sunday, March 30, 2014

For the Class of 2014

Once upon a time, thirty years ago, exactly on this same date, March 29, on this same afternoon, in this same gymnasium, I was seated in one of the seats you are sitting now, looking up to our lady speaker then standing here in my place, who had just placed 2nd in the national bar examinations. 

What a short physical distance 30 years can make, from there to here!  

I have been thinking about your class for three weeks now, although I only sat down to finally organize and write down my thoughts this morning. 

What can I say to you that would be meaningful for you, as you sit there, possibly sweltering in the humidity, and impatient about getting on with the program, so you can have your dinner celebrations with your families, and even your after-parties with your friends afterwards?

You are graduating in very interesting and challenging times.

In three months’ time, the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program laws will expire, which means that the agrarian reform program in our country started in 1988 will end. 

In 24 months’ time, the Free Trade Agreements on virtually zero tariffs among ASEAN member nations will commence their final phase of full implementation, while the K-to-12 program will become fully operational, even as we vote for the next President of our country. 

Also, from now until then and even after, the effects of severe environmental damage and climate change will increasingly be experienced, with Mother Nature’s voice becoming louder and more insistent.

So, what do all these have to do with you? You might wonder.  Your only obvious next decisions to make now are on how to spend your summer vacation and what college program and which school to finally enroll in, right?

Well, these changes have a lot to do with your life and your future, for they shape the situations, challenges and opportunities you will be facing in the next years of your lives. 

So what can you do about them?  You are only 16 or 17 years old now, with probably only a vague idea about who you would like to become and how you would want your life to be.

When I graduated from our school in 1984, the times were also very interesting, challenging, and even darker. 

We were living in the last throes of a more than 20-year dictatorship of then President Ferdinand Marcos.  Negros Occidental was the featured cover story of Time Magazine for its state of extreme poverty.  “May gutom sa Negros” was the byword all over the country.

There was no night life in Bacolod, everyone was mostly home by 8 o’clock in the evening, because dangerous things happened after dark, and one hears of someone being “salvaged”  (which was the euphemism then for being killed and dumped somewhere) in some empty field in the city. 

There was no cellphone then, much less the Internet.  China was not an economic superpower then, and Hongkong still belonged to the British.

Still, from then until now, our country is still surviving, and—I would like to believe, given how our country was then and now—thriving, because we Filipinos live life from the guts, with heart and soul, not just from our minds.  What I would like to further speak to you about this afternoon is about living this way, with heart and soul, with our minds as tools.

So, things happen.  And we graduate,  and pursue college degrees, and businesses or jobs, so we can take care of ourselves and our families, especially the new families we hope to create. 

We try to make our way in the world, with the talents we’ve been given and the education we’ve acquired, both in school and out of school. 

But,  in the end, what really matters?

As I go back to thinking of you again and imagining what my own 16-year-old self  30 years ago would have wanted to hear as guidelines for making my way even for only the next 30 years of my life, I reflect on the key lessons I have learned  and which have brought me to a well and happy place in my life now, even as I also continue my journey, learning and growth.

In any person’s life, there are 3 important questions that must be made clear early on, even if it takes the rest of our lives to answer them. 

These questions are:
1.  What is my life’s meaning? 
2.  Who will I choose to accompany me in my life’s journey?
3.  What is my life’s work?

First, what is your life’s meaning at the end of it?  Will it be only about consuming and consuming, and extracting the most you can out of it and other people, without producing something of value for others too?

For some time, you can live on this mindset alone, until eventually you will find that your life gets smaller and smaller, and tighter and tighter, until there is no meaning left to living it. 

What I have learned so far is that the old truism is still true, “You get what you give, you reap what you sow.”  In order for you to get something, you have to give something, and that comes through your life and work.  Put another way, when you take care of others, Life takes care of you—doors open, miracles happen. 

Second, who will you choose to accompany you in your life’s journey?  We did not choose our families of origin; we were born into them. They have gifts to bless us with, as well as lessons to teach us, just from our experience of growing up with them. 

But for the rest of our lives, we get to choose whom we want to accompany us in our life’s journey.  This is a freedom we must not waste.

Do you choose friends and college courses and schools, and eventually, business associates to work with, based on external trappings alone, like good looks, and image, and money, or what people would say? 

Or do you choose them based on your own inner vision of yourself and your life and the values you hold dear?  This is an especially important question to answer when you finally choose your life partner, because it determines the quality of the rest of your life.

Today, we have grown quite mindful about the kinds of food we eat, about taking in healthier food, haven’t we?  Well, I suggest we should apply this mindfulness too in the kinds of people we surround ourselves with and choose to work and live with. 

Do you share complementary life views and values? How do the people you have chosen to associate with treat  you?  Is it with honesty, respect and kindness?  How do they treat other people, especially the so-called invisible ones we meet everyday but whom we barely acknowledge, like food servers and security guards and even the children begging on the street? 
As in food, so it also goes in matters of the heart.  If fastfood is eventually harmful to our bodies, then fast “relationships” without substance are eventually toxic to our lives.  

Healthy relationships, like healthy food, have to be grown organically, according to the laws of Nature and Life, respecting their seasons, and cultivating them with loving attention and care, whether in season or out of season.

The last question to ask and answer is actually the first you will need to address:  what is your life’s work?

In our postmodern society and culture today, the dominant idea appears to be, that we choose work and careers and prepare ourselves accordingly for them, based on what society considers as indicators of “success”:  money, power, fame.  But, hey, remember, you can’t take these with you out of this life.

Besides, they’re only probably dominant because most people haven’t taken the time and thought to really reflect on what’s really important to them and what would make them happy.

So, what is your life’s work?  What can you take with you after this life?

Your clues are found in what makes you happy.  Not just the temporary and superficial but pleasurable kinds of happiness you get from consuming something, but the long-lasting, deeply joyful kinds of happiness that you get from enjoying something for it’s own sake, and actually producing something to serve others. 

What do you enjoy doing for its own sake?  What are the uniquely individual ways of seeing and being that you have, and the talents that you possess which, when expressed, give you a deep kind of joy and make you come alive? 

God did not place these inside you if they were not meant to be expressed to bless your life and others’ lives too.  I have found that they are actually God’s secret little messages to us, revealing more of Himself to us, inviting us to a closer, deeper, truly loving relationship with Him, so we can discover more richly the wonderful plans He has for us.

So, yes, when I apply these questions to my own life and journey these past 30 years, and reflect on the answers I have discovered for my self, which have stood me in good stead  over all the many adventures and mis-adventures of my life, I now find that they have one common thread running through them: 

Follow your peace, follow your deepest joy, follow your bliss. Everything else will eventually re-arrange themselves and fall into place, and you will be living the good, abundant Life that God always meant for you to live.  Our intelligence and education can only take us so far, but when we live in God’s Presence, consult with Him in every decision that we make, and obey His Guidance, wonderful things happen.

I have given you more questions than answers to take with you as you go out of Tay Tung, and move on in your journey.  

But, in Life, as well as in school, it is always very important to ask the right questions. 

I pray that these questions will serve you well.

Abundant blessings to all.*


Bacolod Tay Tung High School 63rd Recognition and Graduation Exercises
Inspirational Message for the Graduating Class of 2014
By Mary Jean Lee C. Patindol
March 29, 2014
Po Hang Gymnasium

Saturday, August 28, 2010

List of Failures

I just finished conducting a seminar for my colleagues in the College of Business Accountancy, where I shared information and my learning on Professional Scholarly Writing in a Global Context; the difference among Plagiarism, Copyright and Fair Use; and the use of the latest APA Style, 6th ed.

What struck me most from the seminar was the audience's feedback on using sensitive language in research, and "describing participants and subjects at the appropriate level of specificity." I gave them the example of how, sadly still, in our University, we use the term "List of Failures" to publish the list of students (well, their id nos. actually) who have incurred failing grades in their subjects at the end of the semester. A more appropriate and specific term for "List of Failures" should be "List of Students who have Failed Grades".

It catalyzed a spirited discussion among us, about our almost unconscious tendency to throw words around as if they meant nothing more than what we intended to use them for the moment. I shared my own thoughts about how, when we really take time to reflect on them, a lot of the words we use are actually violent, in the sense that they contribute to a paradigm of treating people as less than the fullest human beings that they are.

I remember a time many years ago when I was still chairing a new department in our University, which was really a department formed to "catch" all the students who've been floating around, shifting from one program to another, and just aimlessly going through college. The department was euphemistically named, "Interdisciplinary Studies" (IDS), but it had the stigma of having students whom people perceived as "losers", since they got kicked out of their previous programs.

So, when I took over as chair, I was faced with the challenge of how to handle 400-plus IDS students who perceived themselves as losers and failures, with half of them put on academic probationary status for less than satisfactory grade standing. They are usually called "Probees". And when you're an IDS Probee, that's double the stigma.

Just out of curiousity, and to put a more "fun" and positive spin to the status, when I called them for meetings, instead of posting the usual "Attention IDS Probees..." in the bulletin boards, with their names listed there, I turned to using the term "Late Bloomers" to call them, still with their names listed there.

It quickly caught on among the students and they thought it was really cool and fun... and they started seeing themselves that way, as late bloomers-- they may not have bloomed yet, but will.

I should have done a formal research on that, but I was too engrossed in addressing the myriad needs of the students in the department, getting them to believe in themselves again and to get out of the ruts they have temporarily dug themselves into. After 4 years, though, the "Late Bloomer" list interestingly went down from 50% of the student population in the program to only around 15%. Coincidence?

I don't know so.

That's why I don't join (name your disease/angst) support groups. The very act of naming them there and attaching "support group" to it actually perpetuates the mentality and one's perception of one's identity as being stuck there.

Naming something is making it real.

Be careful of the names you use.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mom's Mothers' Day Thank You to Her Children

Thank YOU, Anthea P. Manayon, Paolo P. Manayon and Beatrice P. Manayon, for helping me strive to grow into the finest human being I can be, each moment of each day.

"Everything we do and say in the presence of our children makes an impression on them. All is taken in and processed.,,, We honor our children when we acknowledge that they are fully present from the very beginning and when we offer ourselves to them in ways that model the best of what humans can be. ..."

(To read more, pls. click on the Title)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Risk of Birth

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out & sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn—
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed & pride the sky is torn—
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

- Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, September 19, 2009

God, Energy and Bea's Question

i was driving to and back from Paolo's friend's house this evening, where he's been sleeping over for the 2nd night in a row now, to bring him a fresh change of clothes.

while driving on almost auto-pilot mode, i was deep inside my self, turning over in my mind all the many lessons i learned from this morning's presentation by CENECO general manager, Mr. Sulpicio Lagarde, Jr. i invited him weeks ago to speak to my Econ1 classes on electricity generation, transmission, distribution and costs and energy efficiency and sustainability, in relation to our class lessons on production and cost theory. he surpassed our expectations by also discussing concerns on global warming and the need to downscale our postmodern energy-dependent lifestyles, as well as inspired us to do something about our laws and systems to support a more sustainable and energy-renewable lifestyle.

i was particularly struck by the metaphor that hit me of the process of generation, transmission and distribution. he said that 138,000 volts from the main generator becomes converted to only 13,200 volts by the transmission line, and even further down to 230 volts when it's distributed, because of conduction resistance. and it struck me that Energy generation, transmission and distribution is like God's Spirit and Blessings--

God is the generator and He/She yearns to give us All things Good and in Abundance, but we, as transmission/distribution lines, can only take so much, because of "resistance", and so whatever Good there is flowing through us becomes diluted in more digestible form, although they are still Good, of course.

and then i remembered one lesson i learned years ago from my Silva Method readings and courses, about an elementary principle in electricity: the best conductor is the one with the least impedance/resistance.

and i thought how this is explained now by what happens when one goes regularly and deeply into meditation practice: how one gets clearer, less "impeded", thus one experiences more Good in one's life, both as a receiver and as a channel for Good too for others.

and then my youngest, 9-year-old Bea, who has been sitting quietly in the dark back seat of the car i forgot she was there, suddenly pipes up: Ma, what's the difference between a spirit and a soul? (this has happened so often already, how the kids pick up on the direction of my secret thoughts while i'm driving, that i take it as naturally as breathing now!)

and so, inhaling deeply, i gave it my best shot, responding from my heart: Spirit is that invisible part of you which is a part of God's Spirit, while Soul is that invisible part of you which is you, your personality, your emotions, your talents and likes and dislikes, 'langga (dear one).

Bea: like twins?

me: ye-esss... sort of, except that they're together, they stick together, there's just one invisible you, and part of it is Spirit and part of it is Soul.

Bea: what's our body for, then?

me: (pause)

me: we-ell... it's like our clothes, or the car we drive, to make our way in this earth. since the earth is a physical thing, then we need to be put in something physical too.

Bea: wowwww... so it's like, we go in and out of different bodies?

me: ye-eess. after we die, we go back to the lower levels of Heaven closest to the earth, and we review our life and see how we did and what lessons we learned and what lessons we didn't learn. and then, we decide what to learn next so we can improve and get closer to being more like God. the more we become like God, the higher we go up in Heaven, until someday, we are together with God again, completely, and we never have to be apart again.

Bea: so earth is like school, and Heaven, too? there are many levels?

me: yes.

Bea: so right now, i'm also made up of some dead person's spirit and soul?

me: ye-es... and that dead person before was you too.

Bea: wowwwww.... so i'm many persons?

me: yes.... in this earth, living many lives, at different times and places, like taking many subjects, until you master them all and become perfect like God.

Bea: if God made me, and God is already perfect, why didn't He make me perfect too, so i don't have to be separated from Him in the first place?

me: (long pause)

Bea: well?

me: God did make us all perfect. And He also gave us free will. So we were perfect to start with, but with our free will, we chose to do things which made us imperfect... until we learn that it really doesn't work out for us in the end when we insist on our own way...

Bea: why would i want to do imperfect things? (Bea is our perfectionist in the family.)

me: you don't think they're imperfect when you choose to do them; you think they're perfect, especially when you haven't spent time with God a lot.

Bea: ok.

me: (silent prayer: God, where is she going with all this??? Holy Spirit, help me!)

Bea: so if i don't want to do imperfect things that i thought were perfect, i should spend more time with God?

me: yes. so you will know God's Heart. and His Heart connects with your heart more strongly. and you can hear His Heart in your heart more clearly.

Bea: ok. that makes sense.

by this time, we had arrived home.

and Bea ran out to eat her newly-bought Berry Strawberry ice cream in front of the tv.

while i-- i am left with these thoughts, and shell-shocked by the experience.

whoa, where did all that come from???

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

getting better

it still comes, this gnawing, anxious feeling that eats at me, especially when i'm "doing nothing" or not doing much in line with my To Dos and my schedules... it still comes.

but i'm getting better at dispelling it now: i know my bottomline priorities and i'm kinder, gentler to my self now.

i've also adopted the philosophy that if things can't be stuffed into one full day, despite my best efforts, then they were really not meant to be done today.

i've also come to respect and honor the flows and cycles of Life as they come-- sometimes what we think should be done ASAP might usually be better off being left alone for now and allowed to take further "cooking and stewing", in the bigger scheme of things.

and then there is my meditation practice, thank God for it! it'll be 3 years now this December, and i'm getting better at intentionally carving out time and space for my self for it, and i've found that indeed, the busier one is, the more one needs this holy solitude to ground and center one's self in.

now, it has come again, this gnawing, anxious feeling that eats at me, telling me that i should be doing something else more "productive"... but i stay here, with my self, preparing for meditation.

i have learned that when this voice comes and nags me to keep "doing", most often, it's a signal for me to stop and stay ... and learn. that there is something going on inside of me, or in the subterranean depths of my life, that i need to pay attention to... but the ego is uncomfortable, would rather escape into "activities"... yet the Soul demands complete and focused attention.

and so, i stay, despite the discomfort it brings.

and so, it still comes.

and then, it'll go, i know that much, for sure, now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Building Futures with the IDS

Aug. 27, 2009; 1:30 p.m. - It is way past my regular lunchtime, and I have just finished my last of two IDS (Interdisciplinary Studies) 109 classes since 10:30 this morning. My stomach is hungry, yet my soul is full.

IDS 109, or Futures Principles and Futures Planning, is a major subject taken by IDS students to train them in futures thinking and in applying selected futures studies methodologies. We had the start of their group scenario building presentations on their selected and approved topics today.

In previous sessions, we did group exercises on scenario-building by using prepared data from Ging Deles’ presentation on Emerging Scenarios in the Philippine Political Environment for 2010, and Al Gore’s film documentary on climate change and global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.

Scenario-building is a futures studies method used especially when the circumstances and information are dynamically-changing and one wants to get a “hold” on what is coming, so one can better prepare and take proactive action.

In our IDS 109 class, we have distilled the method down to its essence. The students are asked to build their Possible Futures (Status Quo, Worst Case and Best Case) as well as their Preferred Future on an issue, before they outline their recommendations for strategic action.

This morning, they started presenting their own full cases, researching data for their selected issues and presenting the global and Philippine situations for these issues, before they present their scenarios and recommendations for strategic action.

In the 1030am class today, they presented their scenarios on the Futures of Work, Futures of Philippine Out-of-School Youth, Futures of Relationships and the Futures of Weapons/the Arms Industry. In the 1200nn class, they presented their scenarios on the Futures of the Philippine Militant Mass Movement, the Futures of Families, and the Futures of Food Security. In the first week of classes after Midterm Exams, more groups will be presenting on such issues as the Futures of Education, Jobs, Energy, GMO Food, Drugs, Population and even Sex!

I was very impressed with the depth of analysis and the richness of the scenarios the students presented today. Setting aside certain formatting weaknesses in the order of one or two groups’ presented topics, I felt both gratified and humbled at seeing them research information from many sources, putting this often-times seemingly unrelated information together, and coming up with analyses and scenarios that are at once deep, multi-disciplinary, experientially-truthful and achingly rich and still hopeful (preferred scenarios) despite the worst possible implications they also came up with.

For instance, the Futures of Weapons/Arms Industry group (August Baniel, Jeremy Fernandez, Shaundell Ferrer, Evrel Mabugat and Raffy Remitio Jr.) pointed out how, since war is a big, global business, to effect a just and lasting peace in the world, we must also make it more “profitable” for those already engaged in war to engage in peace. They pointed out that it’s not a question of having no money to take people out of poverty, but that the money is there, and it is just used for war.

The Futures of Family group (Laura Jane Biong, Berlyn Deoric, Ruth Ordoyo, Brian Palencia and Anne Villar) pointed out how, globally and nationally, the structure and dynamics of families are changing, facing multiple demands and challenges brought about by globalization in the context of families “breaking up” because of parents’ career and job demands and transfer to urban areas, intercultural marriages, single parenting and young children basically left to parent themselves early on. In their recommendations for strategic action, they proposed family-friendly employment environments, civic and government programs for the family, and a basic family-first orientation in otherwise business and government structures and systems. They discussed how doing otherwise have very damaging impacts on everyone concerned, affecting even our economic and societal lives.

I am looking forward to Sept. 8, when the groups resume their presentations again, with some groups even telling me that they have prepared video versions of their analysis and scenarios.

For now, times like these tell me—I am so blessed in the kind of work that I do, working with these young minds and hearts, having both the opportunity of influencing them and being influenced by them, and daily being able to shape and craft unfolding futures in a more solid and tangible manner, in my constant interactions with them.

With the IDS and students like these, the future is in good hands, after all.*